For Antaryami Sahu of Nayagarh district, “Plant a tree, plant a new life; take care of a tree and it will take care of you,” isn’t just a saying. He has been following the same principle for years now. This 75-year-old young man sets out on a mission to plant trees every morning, armed with a bagful of seeds and a spade in his rusty cycle. Be it roadside or patches of fields, he sows seeds wherever he gets a chance.
A retired teacher from Kantilo village, Sahu has planted more than a staggering 20,000 trees so far and has also inspired many to follow suit. His students lovingly call him Gacha (tree) Sir, a title he truly deserves.
He was barely ten when his love for trees blossomed. There were two people in Antaryami’s life who strongly motivated him to take up this generous adoration for trees. Being a social activist, his father always encouraged him to do something for the society. Besides, there was his teacher, Harihar Mishra who used to regularly plant trees in his school. It was this one time when Antaryami’s teacher told, ‘You should work towards saving trees or else you will see leaves only in museums.’ And that was the day when his motto of life became clear!
The septuagenarian environment crusader prides on the fact that trees are his first love. ‘Trees are for me and I am for them. Every school that I was transferred to, I made it a point to encourage students to plant trees and even felicitated them when they did so,” he said smilingly. Sahu truly understands the growing need to save forests in order to save humanity. He is of the view that before cutting down trees, people should think twice because by cutting trees, we are destroying our environment and hurting animals too. So, saving forests should be the utmost priority.
Sahu, himself, has made efforts to create forests. Infact he has planted many trees like sal, mango, banyan, ashwatha, bel and saguan to start forests. He even worked towards generating awareness about the harmful effects of podu chasa (slash-and-burn form of cultivation) in Kamalpur, Jayapur and Manipur of Boudh district. No wonder, Sahu has been honoured with many awards and recognition for his contribution to save the environment. He has been conferred with Boudh, Phulbani and Nayagarh districts’ Prakruti Bandhu Puraskar. He has also received the Ashok Smruti award and Prakruti Mitra Puraskar besides other state level awards. For Sahu, however, more than the awards, it is his passion for planting trees that counts.
Not just on World Environment Day, we hope that all of us can make a small difference for the surroundings in our own ways. Right away, the same can be done by following the steps of this noble tree man!